Cherry Red 2015
Prog-pop protagonist explores the depth of night with pieces which made him what he is.
Over the years, John Wetton went out to the audience as a bass player, a frontman in a band and a sole survivor, yet it took the veteran a special place, the beloved Big Apple, to get to the core of his influences. And it took only his easily recognizable voice for Wetton to make the set of classics his own and, accompanied by THE LES PAUL TRIO, add a jazz tint to them. Such an approach may give a dark hue to the finale of “Battle Lines” – alongside the equally despondent, rather then heroic, “Heat Of The Moment,” the only non-cover on offer – but for the most part John doesn’t dramatically change the ’60s staples he grew up with and didn’t really perform before.
What he did, and what’s reprised here with a little bit of instrumental swing, is telling. Stoked by Lou Pallo’s guitar and rattled by Nicki Parrott’s double bass, “All Along The Watchtower,” that Wetton has been enriching his repertoire with for quite a while, reflects his poetic side, whereas the slowed-down “God Only Knows,” which he delivered at least once, casts light on John’s songs melodic genesis. His rock roots revealed with a roar and falsetto in “Lady Madonna,” the artist also bares his soul here, on “What’s Going On?” whose worrisome drive offsets the urbanistic streak the veteran rarely goes for, So, riding Rodney Holmes’ piano jive and warmed by the burning vocals, the sparse title track, elevated with Parrott’s harmony voice, and STEELY DAN’s “Do It Again” provide a powerful discharge, while “Can’t Find My Way Home” takes on a hymnal quality.
In the light of Wetton’s 2015 operation, this recording is very much poignant, as John set the show at the “Iridium” to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancer, yet that was hardly the reason for the mood shifting towards gloomy as the performance progresses. Still, it’s a perfect document of nocturnal nature – truly live in the dead of night. A milestone in a long career.